You have to ask yourself: what exactly is it that brings Bob Dylan, one of the most influential figures in the history of rock'n'roll, to a cycle track in downtown Stuttgart? When contemporaries such as the Rolling Stones tour, they are heavily sponsored and hyped to the hilt, performing slick stadia shows. But Bob still does it his way: rolling restlessly around the more improbable venues of Europe.
Here is the man who singlehandedly revolutionised the pop lyric, nominally promoting a Best Of, Volume 2, but choosing to play only two tracks from the album. More frustratingly, he also manages to bypass the excellent "Things Have Changed", his first new song of the 21st century. Over the past 40 years many have tried to figure Dylan out, but the only thing that's certain, as he edges towards 60, is that in concert he is still able to deliver.
It is a weird experience to see such an uncompromising and inspirational figure playing his wonderfully fierce songs, not just to the grey-haired men who grew up asking, "How does it feeeel?", but to the young and curious.
Perversely, rock music's most influential songwriter opens his set with a breezy cover of "Roving Gambler", a traditional ballad. Then it's a brisk trot through more familiar territory: "Times They Are A-Changin'", a fragile "Girl From the North Country", "Tangled Up in Blue", "Gates of Eden" and even a truncated "Desolation Row".
On stage, he cuts a curious figure, frequently doing a little single-step duckwalk - the Bob shuffle; but the first harmonica solo is greeted rapturously, and the show offers something for everyone. New fans receive familiar titles such as "Maggie's Farm" and "It Ain't Me Babe" warmly; while loyal followers of many years' standing are rewarded with unexpected little footnotes: an electric "Country Pie", a startlingly energetic cover of "Not Fade Away" and a jaunty "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight".
Audiences used to pristine CD versions of the hits can be disoriented as Dylan trawls through one of the most distinguished back-catalogues in pop and reclaims over-familiar songs for himself. The notion that he merely clings to past glories is disposed of swiftly by his poignant performance of a trio from his recent and masterly Time Out of Mind: "Can't Wait", "Lovesick" and "Not Dark Yet" - which may well be his best song of the past decade. Performed by the man who altered the very language of rock'n'roll, "Like a Rolling Stone" still packs an awesome punch; and then it's into the home straight as a moving "Forever Young" and boisterous "Rainy Day Women" bring the energetic two-hour show to a close.
Dylan forges ever forward, and there are rumours of British shows in the autumn. Be there. If nothing else, it will be an opportunity to admire the audacity of a man who, legend though he is, refuses to be bound by his own myth.Reuse content